The American Society of Cinematographers

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Return to Table of Contents August 2009 Return to Table of Contents
Julie & Julia
Short Takes
DVD Playback
Fatal Attraction
Lookin to Get Out
True Romance
Exterminating Angel
ASC Close-Up
Fatal Attraction (1987)

Blu-ray Edition
1.85:1 (High Definition 1080p)
Dolby True HD 5.1
Paramount Home Entertainment, $29.99

Thrown together in a rainstorm following a Saturday business meeting, married New York lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) and single publishing executive Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) decide to wait out the storm over drinks. As they linger, they discover an easy chemistry, and drinks turn into dinner as they take advantage of the fact Dan’s wife is out of town for the weekend. After a passionate weekend of wild sex, Dan and Alex part ways. Depressed, Alex attempts suicide, and a nervous Dan comforts her as long as he can before his wife, Beth (Anne Archer), and daughter (Ellen Hamilton Latzen) return from their trip.

Alex contacts Dan weeks later to explain she is in love with him and is pregnant. When Dan refuses to be part of the child’s life, Alex begins stalking him, calling his apartment at all hours and hanging up when Beth answers. As Dan tries to ignore Alex, she makes increasingly disturbing — and, finally, violent — overtures in a bid to change his mind. “I’m not going to be ignored,” she insists.

In fashioning the sensationalistic suspense drama, director Adrian Lyne wanted a realistic, “slick, black-and-white-in-color” look. He turned to cinematographer Howard Atherton, BSC, with whom he had worked on several commercials in the United Kingdom; Fatal Attraction was Atherton’s first U.S. feature, and he and Lyne subsequently collaborated on the features Indecent Proposal and Lolita.

For Fatal Attraction, Atherton and Lyne agreed on highly visible blacks and shadows, keeping much of the color neutral, with a sparing use of primaries. They also chose a slightly claustrophobic compositional motif which grew out of the choice to shoot most of the picture in real Manhattan apartments. Their reliance on long lenses in such environments worked in the picture’s favor, creating tension and reflecting Dan’s increasing feelings of being trapped.

Paramount Home Video recently released Fatal Attraction in the Blu-ray format, and the presentation offers a sharp, excellently rendered 1080p picture transfer. The color has a sufficiently subdued but warm look, and the black levels are always solid. Film grain is evident where intended and never feels manipulated. The presentation is extraordinarily film-like throughout.

The 5.1 sound is less impressive although that seems to be a result of the film’s original, rather uninspired sound mix. There is some minor activity in the surround channels, but most of the film’s soundscape falls into the center channel, which sometimes registers at a low volume. 

Supplements borrowed from Paramount’s 2002 DVD of the film include an engaging, feature-length commentary by Lyne and nearly an hour of documentary segments — “Forever Fatal: Remembering Fatal Attraction,” “Social Attraction” and “Visual Attraction” — that feature interviews with cast, key crew (including Atherton), movie critics and others. The documentary material and some rehearsal footage are presented in standard definition. Finally, this package includes high-definition versions of the film’s original ending and its theatrical trailer.

Fatal Attraction was a box-office sensation and touched a nerve with American audiences. Some felt the film demonized the single, working woman, and some even thought Alex personified AIDS, which began to make infidelity a matter of life and death in the 1980s. Others felt Dan was a selfish man who deserved some measure of what he got. No matter how you read this incendiary drama, there is no debating it is an exceptionally powerful and well crafted thriller.

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